BLACK VOICES
10/23/2013 02:09 pm ET Updated Oct 25, 2013

Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s PBS Documentary 'The African Americans' Premieres To Glowing Reviews

Last night marked the premiere of Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s original PBS documentary "The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross."

The introspective, six-part, six-hour series, hosted by the Harvard scholar, social critic and filmmaker, examines the trials and tribulations of African-American history, charting the course of five centuries.

During episode one titled “The Black Atlantic,” Gates explored the earliest documentation of enslaved and free Africans arriving on American shores.

And as expected, many are commending the docu-series for its in-depth storytelling;

Everyone (you hope) knows that slavery existed at least as long ago as Ancient Egypt. Many are also aware that black Africans helped the white slave traders who arrived on their shores. But Episode 1 (“The Black Atlantic: 1500-1800”) delves deeper — in Sierra Leone, the Temne people would sell the Loko people, so they didn’t see it as turning against their own — and points out that Europeans invented the idea that skin color determined who was and was not enslavable. As Mr. Gates observes, “the dehumanization of an entire race” takes a while. -- The New York Times

Gates’ documentary remains faithful to the familiar template of African American history we learn in school. But by adding the less familiar facts and figures of history to the story, he gives us a much broader perspective. -- The Washington Times

Chapter one, “The Black Atlantic,” races through the 300-year history of the slave trade. Part two covers the 19th century up to the start of the Civil War, and so on, with the final chapter beginning in 1968 — the year Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated — and carrying through the present, and how the election of the first African-American president hasn’t resolved long-simmering racial tensions. -- Variety

Besides its all-inclusive historical sweep — from the first African to set foot in the New World to the first African American to occupy the White House — what distinguishes Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s new series, "The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross," from many previous documentaries on the black experience is … Henry Louis Gates Jr. -- Los Angeles Times

Gates intends the series to help teach race in what he considers to be an utterly ineffective school system; he’s quick to cite studies indicating that black history is not being taught well in schools. -- Salon

“The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross” airs Tuesdays through November 26 at 8pm ET on PBS.

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